In the early hours of Saturday, materials for Mbalom electoral ward in Gwer East Local Government Area of Benue State were burnt by armed hoodlums. Governor Samuel Ortom, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate hails from Gbajimba in Guma.
That was the visible signature in most parts of Nigeria: killings, ballot box snatching and the militarisation of the elections. There was also voter apathy experienced during the February 23 Presidential and National assembly polls was a child’s play when compared with what happened on Saturday.
In Lagos, Katsina, Ogun, the Federal Capital Territory, Edo, Imo, Katsina, Delta, Adamawa and most states across the country, voters stayed away from the polling units. The reasons for these, observers noted, included violence, military presence, harassment of opposition parties and generally held belief by many that their votes would not count.
Canvassers in some parts of Lagos State including Eric Moore, Itolo Street in Surulere and some areas of Ifako Ijaiye Local Government Area of the state had to resort to using vuvuzela and bells to urge voters to come out and exercise their civic duty.
In some areas, they knocked on the gates of residents to appeal to them to come out and vote.
In Rivers State, the exercise witnessed low turnout of voters while there were reported cases of ballot box snatching though the exercise failed to kick off at most polling units at 9am, was further characterised by heavy deployment of policemen and army personnel in most of the places visited by our correspondents in the state.
In the few places that people managed to turn out to exercise their rights, agents of some political parties wooed voters with money. This activity went on in the presence of security officials at some places without hindrance.
Similarly in Katsina State, President Muhammadu Buhari’s home state, as voter turnout was low, compared to that of the presidential and National Assembly polls.
Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Presiding Officers and observers admitted the fact of the low turnout.
One of our correspondents, who visited many units in several locations in the state to monitor the elections, observed that the queues were shorter, while at some units, the ad hoc workers of INEC were virtually idle.
In Malamawa 3 Low Cost Unit in Daura, the Presiding Officer, Mr Kassimu Adamu-Giza, blamed the low turnout on alleged failure by politicians particularly legislators to fulfil their campaign promises.
He explained, “You were here during the presidential election, the turnout was massive. In this one, it is low because people feel the local politicians don’t meet their expectations. They think that they are voting for nothing. That is the type of awareness that the voters have here.”
In Oyo State, a member of the House of Representatives, from Lagelu/Akinyele Federal Constituency, Temitope Olatoye, was shot dead.
Olatoye, popularly known as Sugar, was shot dead on Saturday by unidentified gunmen after the Governorship and State House of Assembly elections in Ibadan. He was rushed to the Accident and Emergency Centre of the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan, where he was confirmed dead.
The UCH Public Relations Officer (PRO), Toye Akinrinlola, confirmed his death in Ibadan, sating Olatoye died in UCH Intensive Care Unit (ICU) from gunshots.
“The AIG Police, Zone 7, the Oyo Compol, CMD and other top police hierarchy are in UCH now. We have formally told the family of his demise,’’ Akinrinlola said.
Olatoye contested and lost the February 23 Senatorial elections in Oyo State on the platform of the Action Democratic Party (ADP).
He lost the election.
Meanwhile, according to sources, the hoodlums on arrival fired shots in the air before setting on fire the RCM Primary School Aya, housing the materials.
Mrs. Ngunan Yongo, the Electoral Officer for the local government, confirmed the incident to newsmen, pointing out that the materials were yet to be distributed to polling units in the ward when the attack occurred.
Lamenting, she said, ‘’the entire materials are burnt. However, no official of the commission including the ad hoc staff were hurt.
Though she had explained that final decision over the conduct of the elections in the area would be communicated later, a senior staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Thaddeus Ujah, also confirmed the early morning attack.
‘’I can’t say anything, I am overwhelmed; we were not expecting anything of that nature. I am short of words. I can’t see some of my people they ran into the bush, some of them got injured. For me, the most important thing to me now is to get those people and take them back’’, he said.